News item

Rogues jailed

Two men have been jailed for a combined total of 26 years and three months after they pleaded guilty to defrauding householders of thousands of pounds in payments for unsatisfactory building work.

The ruthless rogues were brought to justice thanks to close cooperation by police and trading standards.

All offences to which the defendants have pleaded guilty involve the fraudulent obtaining of cash from vulnerable and elderly people in return for unnecessary, overcharged, poorly performed and/or non-existent roofing works.

Billy Smith, aged 39, of Mansion Lane, Iver, was sentenced to three years nine months in prison for each of seven separate counts of fraud, with all sentences to run concurrently. His son Riley Alby Smith, aged 20, of Salvation Place, Fetcham, Leatherhead, was sentenced to nine months, suspended for two years, and he was further ordered to complete 200 hours of community work.

The two men pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to seven substantive counts of fraud by false representation and obtaining property by deception. Billy Smith pleaded guilty to all seven counts and Riley Smith to two counts, relating to incidents at four locations listed below.

In August 2009, police were notified that an elderly resident from Priestwood, Bracknell, had been requested to pay a Mr Smith £1,720 in cash for alleged building work at her home. Further investigations found that the woman had made cash payments totalling around £22,000 to Mr Smith between June and August 2009.

When the latest payment was due to be collected, officers waited at the location and arrested Billy and Riley Smith on suspicion of fraud by false representation. Subsequent investigations uncovered a number of similar fraud offences committed by the two men across the south of England.

Between October 2006 and June 2009, an elderly woman in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, was tricked into making payments of approximately £16,000 for unnecessary repairs to her roof.

Over a three-year period up to July 2009, an elderly man in Christchurch, Dorset, made payments of between £40,000 and £50,000 for work on the roof of his home.

Between September 2005 and June 2009, Billy and Riley Smith visited the home of an elderly woman in Hillingdon, Middlesex, up to 15 times to carry out building work, for which they charged between £5,000 and £7,000.

Detectives also discovered a number of similar incidents involving elderly residents in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Surrey, which are believed to be linked to Billy and Riley Smith. From information gathered during the investigation it is possible that further crimes have been committed throughout the south of England.

When requesting payments for alleged building work, Billy and Riley Smith claimed to work for a variety of companies, including: AGL, Advanced Roofing, Advanced Tree Care, Ashbourne Tree Care, JW Construction, Protech Roofing, Redland Roofing, Weathershield Roofing, and Rooftech.

Det Con John Braddy, investigating officer, said: ‘This is a despicable series of crimes in which Billy and Riley Smith actively preyed upon elderly and vulnerable people. Even after requests by victims to be left alone, they returned repeatedly and stripped them of all their assets.

‘Without the hard work of the Thames Valley Police Priority Crime Unit in Bracknell, and Trading Standards Regional Fraud Unit, these individuals would have continued with the ruthless exploitation of their unfortunate victims.’

John Peerless, Project Manager Trading Standards Regional Fraud Unit - Scambusters, said: ‘We were delighted to support Thames Valley Police on this investigation. Organised criminal gangs such as these target vulnerable homeowners, particularly elderly members of the community. The message from Trading Standards is very clear – never ever deal with cold calling home maintenance traders. If they knock on your door you must ask them to leave and never give them any work to do. If householders do get into difficulties, they should call Trading Standards via Consumer Direct on 08454 04 05 06.’

If you believe that you have been a victim of similar frauds by Billy and Riley Smith and have not reported it to the police, please call Thames Valley Police on 0845 8 505.